The top seeded Texas Longhorns (26-5, 13-3) tip off the post-season and Big XII tournament play this morning at 11:30 a.m. in Kansas City as they hook up with the Oklahoma State Cowboys (16-14, 8-9). The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU and regionally by ESPN+.
These two Big XII South members know each other well having already played twice this season. While the Longhorns won both meetings, neither was easy. Texas prevailed 63-61 in Stillwater in mid-January and also defeated the Cowboys just five days ago in Austin 62-57. I am not one who subscribes to the notion that it is overwhelmingly difficult to beat the same team three times in one season. However, the first two games have been very close and on a neutral court, I expect nothing different this morning.
What is at stake?
For the Longhorns, a win would lock up a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of the results on Saturday or Sunday. The Longhorns won 26 regular season games, beat probable top seeds UCLA and Tennessee, and shared the conference championship in the second rated league in the country. With no other teams in that 9-16 range really coming on strong, a single win in Kansas City should be enough to ink the ‘Horns as a #2 seed.
For the Cowboys, what’s at stake is a little less clear. With their late season turn-around, OSU has a legitimate shot at the NIT, and Sean Sutton now looks to be in good position to keep his job, at least for one more season. A win today, a trip to the semis, and maybe another chance to defeat rival OU would surely help Sean’s job security. For the record, I am not a fan of Sean and do not think that he will be in Stillwater more than another year or two.
Keys to the Game:
In Austin, the Longhorns looked like a middle school team trying to attack the OSU 2-3 zone. The Longhorns passing must be crisper and force the Cowboys to move side to side across the floor. Moving the ball quickly also creates driving angles that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
In our roundtable discussion, the consensus was that Atchley and Abrams were the two next biggest keys to success beyond DJ. When these two guys hit jump shots, Texas is almost unbeatable. A quick start today would be a good sign for a deep run not only in this tournament but also in the NCAA tournament.
Justin Mason will draw the defensive assignment against the Cowboy point guard again today. Last Sunday, Mason did an excellent job of keeping Eaton in front of him and limiting his dribble drives and open jumpers. Another strong defensive performance will be required for the ‘Horns to advance. While Terrell Harris, Obi Muonelo and James Anderson are all nice players and strong slashers, Eaton is the one that makes this team tick.